From A United Kingdom to Free Fire, Smoke Screen picks ten highlights of London Film Festival 2016

Has it really been a year since the last one? Yes, the London Film Festival is almost upon our fair city again, running across multiple venues from 5-16 October. Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased online as well as in person at the cinema box offices, and if some events are sold out, remember there are returns/rush queues and multiple screenings of most things at different venues. If you still haven't made your mind up, the Smoke Screen has ten to try...

A United Kingdom

It would be remiss not to mention the festival opening gala film A United Kingdom from director Ama Asante, not least due to the fact its release coincides with the BFI ramping up its Black Star season, which aims to foreground black actors, stories and filmmakers. The film tells the story of Seretse Khama, King of Bechuanaland (modern Botswana) and Ruth Williams, the London office worker he married in 1948 in the face of fierce opposition from their families and the government of the time to interracial marriage. Director Amma Asante comes to this drama following strong reviews for her film Belle. So hot right now star David Oyelowo takes the lead role, with Rosamund Pike playing opposite him.
Audiences around the UK will have the exclusive chance to see Opening Night red carpet footage and interviews with the film’s creators, beamed by satellite into their local cinema and followed by a special preview screening of A United Kingdom.

Tickets will be available via Show Film First from 10am Thursday 29 September on a first come first served basis, and subject to availability.

Free Fire

Cult director Ben Wheatley's Free Fire closes out this year's LFF, and after the uneven High-Rise, he seems to have retreated to a more out-and-out fun project. Tongue is firmly in cheek in this outrageous homage to tough guy movies of the 70s, as two groups of criminals spend 90s minutes trapped in the same warehouse location trying to blow each other to bits. The film went down well at Toronto Film Festival where it recently played, being programmed to run in exactly the strand it was made for: "Midnight Madness".

La La Land

Destined to be a major Oscar contender, director Damian Chazelle's follow up to his acclaimed thriller Whiplash recently grabbed the prestigious audience award at Toronto, its winning combination of having impossibly beautiful stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone attempt amateur song-and-dance shenanigans, against a backdrop laced with tangible nostalgia for films and music styles of old, proving too strong to resist.

Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World 

The mercurial adventurer Werner Herzog is back in documentary mode, and what better subject for him to tackle than...the internet. Beyond the more obvious examinations of the degree to which our lives are lived online and governed by advanced technology we don't really understand, expect plenty of left field musings about such pressing questions as: could humans one day marry their intelligent fridges? The legendary Teuton will also be gracing the LFF for a live talk - Herzog will attend the screening on the 13 October at Picturehouse Central in London and the film will be followed by a Q&A going out via satellite broadcast across the UK and Ireland to over 60 participating cinemas. Additionally, tickets will be available to purchase from anywhere within the UK and Ireland for a simultaneous virtual festival premiere of the film. Tickets for UK-wide screenings via individual box offices, and for the Virtual Premiere via


Barry Jenkins' study of masculinity struggling under the constraints of being poor, black and gay has already been reviewed by Smoke Screen, and it deserves all the buzz it has earned already on the festival circuit. A film you will be hearing about for sure throughout the year, and undoubtedly a LFF festival prize contender.



Everyone should try to experience something new and surprising at a film festival, and the Smoke Screen enjoyed taking a chance on this weird-sounding absurdist fable from director Ivan Tverdovsky, which tells the story of a browbeaten middle-aged Russian woman who comes alive for the first time after inexplicably growing a tail. A great central performance from actor Natalia Pavlenkova, and some striking cinematography make this universal tale of exclusion work.

The Wailing

If you are hungering for a fix of Asian genre cinema this LFF, you might want to check out The Wailing from Korean filmmaker Na Hong Jin. A policeman investigating a string of mysterious deaths in a sleepy Korean village finds himself facing an ancient, unimaginable evil. This is the director behind the gritty and well-received thrillers The Chaser and The Yellow Sea, so just imagine what he can do when the supernatural gets added into the mix.


The Smoke Screen was hugely impressed with Romanian director Cristi Puiu’s magisterial, darkly funny and technically accomplished chamber-work, which throws a dysfunctional family together into a cramped apartment at a wake and tracks the resulting chaos. Read the four-star review here.

Your Name

If you are looking to catch some animation at LFF, you might want to check out this Japanese submission, who's inclusion in the festival competition marks the first time an animated film gets to run for the LFF top prize. Your Name is the work of acclaimed Japanese director Makoto Shinkai, often hailed as a true competitor to the dominant (but now retired) figure of Studio Ghibli's Hayao Miyazaki. Two teenagers’ lives are changed forever when the first visible comet for a thousand years approaches Japan. Mitsuha lives in a rural area and longs to leave, whilst Taki waits tables in Tokyo when he’s not studying. Despite never having met, they both begin to dream about each other, imagining that somehow they have exchanged bodies and are existing in parallel lives. As this phenomenon continues, they start communicating with each other via messages left on smartphones and resolve to meet to make sense of what is happening to them. 

LFF Connects Presents: Dennis Muren in conversation.

LFF offers so much more than just films: the relatively new "Connects" strand sees major filmmaking talent sit down for extended discussions live in front of audiences. A whole range of prominent guests are down to attend this year, but surely first among equals is visual effects maestro Dennis Muren, one of the founding members of George Lucas's Industrial Light and Magic effects house, who went on craft the visuals of Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977), Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), to name just a few films. Muren is joined in conversation by David Vickery and Kevin Jenkins from ILM London.

Festival Information & Ticket Booking about LFF 2016

BFI Members’ priority booking opens 10.00am, 8 September - join at 

Public booking opens 10.00am, 15 September

Telephone Bookings: 020 7928 3232 between 10:00 – 20:30


In person: BFI Southbank Office: 11:00 – 20:30


Owen Van Spall

Greetings. I am a Film History MA graduate from Birkbeck University of London and a trained NCTJ qualified journalist. Apart from a long history of film and news writing for this site and various other publications, I am also a trained photographer with my own camera kit. I write mostly every day. Along the way I have picked up work experience at Sight & Sound, The Guardian, The Independent, The FT, The New Statesman, and more. I have written hard news stories, features, arranged and conducted interviews with celebrities, film directors and other major cultural figures, arranged photo shoots, and covered film festivals, conferences and events in the UK and abroad. If you wish to commission me or enquire about full-time opportunities please find my CV and contact details below. A physical portfolio of print only cuttings can also be provided.